“Jackass,” “Fearless” Lead U.S. Box Office

Young male moviegoers kicked "Jackass Number Two" to the top of the North American box office, while the star-studded drama "All the King’s Men" failed to draw an audience, according to studio estimates released on Sunday. ???

"Jackass," starring Johnny Knoxville and his band of pranksters in what a studio executive described as "the Three Stooges on steroids," earned $28.1 million during its first three days to beat a studio target of about $23 million, distributor Paramount Pictures said. ??

The film won unlikely critical praise from major media outlets, a factor that producers feared would turn off its target audience of men under 25. ?

"The thing that really flipped us out … was that it got good reviews," said Van Toffler of MTV Networks. ??

Young males also turned out for " Jet Li’s Fearless," a martial arts films from Focus Features’ Rogue Pictures unit that as expected earned $10.6 million in its first week to grab the No. 2 box office slot. ?

Football drama "Gridiron Gang," last week’s top film, brought in $9.7 million in its second week, dropping 33 percent to take the third slot in this week’s box office. ??

"Gridiron Gang," which also appealed to the prized audiences of young males, was released by Columbia, a unit of Sony Corp.?

Ticket sales year-to-date were up 6 percent and attendance was up 2.9 percent over last year’s totals. ??

CRITICAL SCORN ??

Box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations said the top 12 films earned $81.9 million, up 51.7 percent from last weekend, but down 6.8 percent from the year-ago weekend. ??

Moviegoer apathy and critical scorn hit the week’s other two new releases — World War I flying adventure "Flyboys," distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Sony Pictures’ "All the King’s Men," a remake of an Oscar-winning 1949 film based on Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. ??

"Flyboys," the first film released under MGM’s new plan to distribute films from other studios rather than investing in its own, finished fourth with $6 million in ticket sales. Producer Dean Devlin had hoped for a $10 million opening weekend for the film, which cost about $80 million to make. ??

The seventh-place debut for "All the King’s Men," starring Sean Penn, Jude Law and Kate Winslet, was presaged by its cool reception at the Toronto Film Festival this month and, at $3.8 million, fell far below industry expectations of an opening gross in the $8 million to $10 million range. ??

Baseball cartoon "Everyone’s Hero" fell two slots to No. 5 with $4.8 million, and director Brian De Palma’s 1940s true crime mystery "The Black Dahlia," distributed by Universal Pictures, dropped from No. 2 last week to sixth place with $4.4 million, a 56 percent decline over last weekend. ??

Supernatural thriller "The Covenant" slid from No. 4 to No. 8 with $3.3 million. The film was released by Sony Pictures and Screen Gems. ??

"The Illusionist," a dark tale of magic and romance starring Edward Norton and Jessica Biel, garnered $3.28 million for ninth place, and saw its box office sales drop 10 percent. ??

Indy darling "Little Miss Sunshine," released by News Corp’s Fox Searchlight Pictures, fell two slots to No. 10 with $2.9 million to bring the critically praised film to $50.3 million in cumulative ticket sales. ??

Universal is a unit of General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal Inc. "Everyone’s Hero" was released by News Corp’s 20th Century Fox. "The Illusionist" was released by Yari Film Group.

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